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"The power of the lawyer is in the uncertainty of the law." Jeremy Bentham

NACDL News: Department of Justice Files Yet Another Important Statement of Interest

By Diane Price

Stinnie v. Holcomb is a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s alleged practice of automatically suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay court debts. The plaintiffs allege that Virginia affords no opportunity for an individual whose license is suspended to be heard as to the reasons for nonpayment, and that the license remains suspended until the fees are paid or a payment plan is arranged and the person pays a license reinstatement fee. On Nov. 7, 2016, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest, arguing that a driver’s license is a protected interest that cannot be revoked without due process and that the automatic suspension of a license for failure to pay court debts without any inquiry into the ability to pay is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The result of such an action is that indigent individuals are effectively punished for their pove

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The only thing standing between Trump and authoritarianism: the supreme court

By: and

Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the US supreme court will deliver the final branch of government into Donald Trump’s grasp, and usher in an era of one-party rule. The supreme court appears to be the only viable vehicle left to steer us back towards a plural democracy, should it be eroded in the months and years ahead.

If the Democrats in the Senate do not fight tooth and nail the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, they will betray millions of Americans who may be stripped of their equal rights for decades to come. A new Republican majority on the court will continue the harmful project of judicially sanitizing discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. This will have disastrous consequences not only for the LGBT community, but for women and racial minorities as well.

The lawlessness of his nomination is reason enough to reject it. In refusing to even allow Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing, the Republicans stole this supreme court seat, period. Democrats should insist on a hearing for Garland before they would even consider another nominee. To cooperate in any way with this theft is to invite further dirty tricks from Republicans, who have learned lately that there is nothing they cannot get away with.

The most compelling reason to block this appointment is to retain the last remaining vestige of checks and balances in the federal government. Every day the Trump administration displays its disregard for democratic governance and the rule of law, forging ahead with an authoritarian approach virtually unknown in the postwar western political establishment.

The Republican-controlled Congress, cynical and craven in equal measure, shows no inclination to exert any serious check on executive authority. They will tolerate, if not welcome, his autocratic-style governance in the hopes he will help them enact their rightwing legislative agenda.

The Trump administration’s early executive actions are the enactment of textbook strongman tactics intended to distract and confuse citizens. Trump’s apparatus is also skillfully deploying subterfuge in order to diminish public confidence to the point where it becomes impossible to differentiate truths from lies.

The constitutional system, like any structural system, is imperfect and prone to failure and we are in the midst of a massive system failure. With Congress in Trump’s pocket, the judicial branch is the only remaining constitutional bulwark against his authoritarianism.

The American republic under Trump is moving towards a possible constitutional collapse, and the magnitude of its inertia is commensurate with our republic’s colossal proportions. No one can know when the erosion of democratic institutions will reach the point of no return.

Trump is already pressuring congressional Republicans to abolish the filibuster if Democrats use it against Gorsuch; doubtless he will do the same for his next nominee. There is nothing to be gained through appeasement.

The time to push back and deliver the full force of resistance is now, because we have no idea what the future holds. The Democrats may not succeed in preventing Gorsuch’s appointment, but our democracy is worth the fight.

Mischa Haider is a transgender activist. Bruce Hay is a professor of law at Harvard and former clerk to US supreme court justice Antonin Scalia.


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